Black Christmas (2006): Just Watch the Original (Review)
Written by: Lois Kennedy
Billy is a mental patient who has killed his abusive mother as well as his stepfather. Now he just wants to be home for Christmas—and kill a few more people while he’s at it. Since home is now a sorority house, he has a stable full of nubile young ladies to pick off one by one. It’s up to Final Girl Kelli to stop him from killing all of her buddies.
I loved the original Black Christmas, directed by Bob Clark. It’s surprisingly un-corny for 1974, the performances are great, and it’s fairly creepy. Glen Morgan’s remake lost me right at the start when Billy fatally shanks a guard with a candy cane. Yes, this version has a definite tongue-in-cheek quality, but really, we deserve better than that. It’s also more gross than the original and not scary at all. A creepy aspect of the original is that the killer is never explained; he has no back story, no name, and he barely has a face, as much of him is off-screen (except for a really creepy shot of his eye peeping through a keyhole). His threatening calls are often hard to understand, a mixture of howls and gibberish. The mystery is what makes him eerie. All Billy has going for him is that he likes to eat eyes and make cookies out of human flesh. Also for some reason the filmmakers decided to give him a liver disease that causes yellow skin and an obnoxious catch phrase: when Billy kills someone he claims “[insert victim’s name here] is my family now.”
The only interesting change is the theme of dysfunctional families. Billy’s incestuous family is juxtaposed with his victims’ families; most of the girls are in their sorority house at Christmas because they don’t get along with their families—one girl even expresses a desire to bury a hatchet in her sister’s head. The remake also modernizes a great feature of the original: the old killer-calling-from-inside-the-house bit. Billy uses his victims’ cell phones to taunt their friends. It’s a rather necessary update—most people I know don’t even have one landline anymore, never mind two. Though it does beg the questions of (a) how he knows how to use a cell phone, given that he was locked in an attic for his entire childhood and then in an asylum since 1991, and (b) how he knows who to call on the phones—surely the ladies have more numbers in their contact list than their sorority sisters. I can’t imagine this slobbering maniac crouched patiently at a vent to catch everyone’s names before murdering them.
It’s nice that the filmmakers included Andrea Martin from the cast of Clark’s Black Christmas as dorm mother Mrs. Mac, but not nice enough to make me like the movie. (Though it is refreshing that the bumbling cops from the original don’t make an appearance.) I’d say Kelli is a cleverer Final Girl than Jess from the original, though both have equally bad taste in men. To sum up: Bob Clark’s Black Christmas is creepy and atmospheric. Glen Morgan’s Black Christmas is disgusting and immature. Treat this one like Billy’s mother does her son: pay it some attention, then lock it in the attic.
Lois Kennedy is an avid horror fan who also loves to write. You can find her under her pseudonym GhoulieJoe on YouTube, WordPress, and Facebook.
Let me begin by stating the original Bob Clark 1974 BLACK CHRISTMAS is , in my humble opinion one or the most underrated, seminal, terrifying films I’ve seen in 50 plus years of non-stop horror film viewing.The original title was SILENT IGHT, EVIL NIGHT, known in it’s television debut as the way too generic STRANGER IN THE HOUSE. I remember so clearly the night when a group of friends and I went to see a regional showing ( nation wide releases were rare back then. Films were brought out in various locations at different times.) It was such a new concept in promotion, they handed out faux college newspapers, hawking the film’s story and production photographs as a real time event ( eat your heart out BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ).
My gang was always attending any and all genre films, but we had heard and knew nothing about this low budget, poorly advertised film we were seeing.
While Miss Kennedy gave an accurate account of the film, including several points that I feel are crucial to its effective brilliance. Remember, this was a full 4 years before HALLOWEEN, which I respect and love, but was acknowledged as a pioneer in several areas that B.C.had done first and equally well. The film’s overall effect was to create a constant feel of tension, with instances of comedy and true horror that built to an absolutely explosive climax, and then a sinister final act that hit us hard with it’s powerful sense of nihilism.
We were so incredibly effected by the experience, that we ( 5 high school students) chose to spend the night together on my living room floor rather than be alone with Billy’s creepiness in our heads. I went back to see it 4 more times that week, and would in a few months drive to other areas in Maryland to see it now titled BLACK CHRISTMAS. Bob A CHRISTMAS STORY, PORKYS Clark did such an amazing job creating a powerful sense of dread, several horrific murders with maximum impact and very little gore, that I anxiously awaited his next genre project. Even though now the film has an amazing cult following ( it’s Steve Martin’s favorite horror film ) at the time of it’s release, it garnered moderately positive reviews. But even though it’s producers had faith enough to try the new title and rerelease it, the public ignored it.
For Clark’s next genre project was 1979s wonderful Sherlock Holmes murder thriller MURDER BY DECREE that again was impeccably put together with an all star cast ( Christopher Plummer and especially James Mason were perfection as Holmes and Watson ). The film was a moderate success, but like all of Clark’s projects, except PORKYS, they would gain popularity and respect after his untimely death in a car accident.
I waited for decades to have someone with vision to remake BLACK CHRISTMAS with new millennium sensibilities but RESPECT for the original. When it was announced and had an R rating, I was positively giddy with excitement. However, much like Rob Zombies HALLOWEEN 1 and 2, which in my opinion lost the mythical power of the original. Seeing this new B.C. on Christmas day no less, my heart was as broken as a kid with Reindeer shit in his stocking… I’m just saying…